Nightmare Cinema is a new horror anthology film featuring five segments from some of the most respected names in horror, including Joe Dante (Gremlins). The five stories are told through a haunted movie theater, in which a mysterious projectionist played by Mickey Rourke shows five wandering strangers videos that showcase their deepest and darkest fears and secrets.
Like any anthology film, this movie has some segments that work really well and others that don’t land like they probably should. However, the parts of this film that are good are great, and those that fall flat aren’t total misses. As a result, the film as a whole is much more fun than most of this type and earns its nearly two-hour runtime.
The first segment, “The Thing in the Woods” (directed by Alejandro Brugués), is not the best of the five, but it is a fitting opener, as it sets the tone for what we are about to watch for the rest of the movie. Out of any of the segments, this is the cheesiest and most retro. This part of the film has a vibe akin to Creepshow or Tales from the Crypt in that it is wacky, B-movie horror with bad visuals and a slasher delivering some cool kills.
“Mirari” (directed by Joe Dante) is the second segment in the movie, and perhaps the most effective. This segment delivers a sleek and modern-looking body horror film with old-school charm. Out of any of the segments, this one looks the best, having creative cinematography and production design that help immerse you in the world and form a sense of inner dread. In fact, this segment is so good that it could hold up on its own.
The third segment, “Mashit” (directed by Ryûhei Kitamura) is a fun homage to classic exorcism films. The concept and underlying commentary of the segment are interesting, but not something that could have been fully developed in such a short amount of time. It truly feels like this was a longer script that wasn’t quite good enough to get a feature treatment, so it got mashed down into a shorter form. Regardless, it is still fun to watch despite its flaws.
The only real dud in the batch is the fourth segment, “This Way to Egress” (directed by David Slade), and it is hard to describe what it is because it’s never really clear. Although it is shot in pretty black-and-white cinematography and has some impressive production design, Slade can never build his world well enough to justify this beauty. The script is unnecessarily convoluted, and although things finally come together by the end, it takes too long of a time to get there.
The big finale of the film, “Dead” (directed by Mick Garris), stands out from the other segments because it is the darkest and grittiest. This ghost story is probably the most difficult of the five to stomach, not because of the gore but because it has legitimate emotional heft to it. The lead child actor in this segment, Faly Rakotohavana, is phenomenal and deserves to get more lead work in the future.
Garris also directed the material that ties the subjects together, listed as “The Projectionist” in the end credits. Unfortunately, this material feels like nothing more than a forced link between the different segments. Mickey Rourke delivers an enjoyably wacky performance, but he isn’t used nearly enough. Since the runtime is already pretty long as is, it makes sense as to why this part was kept to a bare minimum, but more could have went a long towards making this stand out even more.
Nightmare Cinema is one of the more fun anthology horror films to come out as of late. Although the movie isn’t quite a home run, it delivers plenty of scares and laughs, and will likely catch on with the midnight horror crowd.
Nightmare Cinema hits theaters and VOD on June 21.